5 ways to improve Pentagon acquisition

Tuesday - 1/4/2011, 3:57pm EST

The decade that just ended was a disaster for defense acquisitions, says Loren Thompson, CEO of the non-profit Lexington Institute.

In his Early Warning blog, Thompson says most of the Army's major development programs were canceled.

The Air Force saw the cancellation of its top-of-the-line fighter and failed to get a new refueling tanker into production for a tenth straight year. The Navy had to walk away from two of the three next-generation surface combatants it was planning to buy. And many of the joint networking initiatives that were supposed to be a part of a military transformation bit the dust.

Thompson lays the blame squarely on the Pentagon's acquisition system. So he suggests five New Year's resolutions for the defense acquisition corps and for policymakers.

  1. Simplify the process.
    Thompson says the current approach to buying weapons requires a workforce so huge that the Pentagon has proposed hiring 20,000 new acquisition workers, even though the government is in the midst of a fiscal crisis.

  2. Stick with a plan.
    Revising weapons goals with each new budget, shifting funds and modifying schedules makes long-term planning nearly impossible for contractors.

  3. Educate the bureaucracy.

  4. Bring in the end users of new weapons systems.
    Thompson says the Pentagon should have some say in how these systems are developed.

  5. Get an industrial strategy.
    Thompson says Pentagon acquisition officials act like America is still an industrial colossus that can sustain any level of military production without careful planning or preparation.

    This story is part of Federal News Radio's daily DoD Report. For more defense news, click here.